Design students envision resilient futures for Lower Snake River

PULLMAN, Wash. – Landscape architecture and architecture graduate students from Washington State University’s School of Design and Construction will present their visions for the Lewiston, Idaho waterfront and the Lower Snake River Basin Dec. 6-Jan. 31 at Cafe Sage in Lewiston. The free, public exhibit, called “Alternating Currents,” opens with a reception at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6, and short presentations beginning at 6:30. Cafe Sage is located at 1303 Main St.

Image by Mark Lo and Daniel Baum illustrating a possible future for the Lewiston waterfront.
Image by Mark Lo and Daniel Baum illustrating a possible future for the Lewiston waterfront. Click image to download high resolution version.

As part of a graduate studies course, students considered how diverse inhabitants can obtain the sustenance required for life within a shifting and contested landscape. The inhabitants span many species and occupations and include humans and non-humans. Sustenance, too, comes in multiple forms, from the physical and tangible – for example, food – to the invisible and fleeting – such as the aesthetics of landscape.

For their final projects, students created visualizations exploring the future potential of the ports, the levee, open lands, wildlife habitat, rail lines and the Columbia-Snake River system. The students’ designs are informed by site visits, research, interviews, observation and reflection. Students were encouraged to consider what cannot be seen, to express multiple points of view and to think about how their work might influence the local and regional economies and ecologies.

“Completing the projects required students to consider the meaning of sustenance in a region where grain is grown and salmon runs decline,” said Jolie Kaytes, associate professor of landscape architecture. “How do fish, wheat, peas and seed literally or figuratively feed the people of this place? What has historically sustained the people who call this region home? What are the sources of sustenance?

“How have these sources shifted and altered, and are there alternative sources?” she continued. “Who goes unfed as a result of changes? How do human interventions in the Lower Snake River Basin contribute to the region’s sustenance? What are the roles of dams, barges, rail systems, roads and agriculture? What are the roles of river, soil, psyche and culture in assessing sustenance?”

“Ultimately,” Kaytes added, “the students’ projects challenge us to contemplate the dynamic qualities of landscapes, the complexity of regional issues and alternative ways of considering them.

“This is the third year students are exhibiting work at Cafe Sage,” she said. “We put the show up at the Sage because it’s downtown and is an informal setting where people gather and talk. And, of course, the Sage is in the City of Lewiston, which sits at the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers.

“Students and I hope that having the work in this setting will facilitate conversations and get people talking about the rivers’ future,” Kaytes said.